by Igor Chudov
A new article from Israel discusses Covid variants in Israeli wastewater — and also shows that Israelis have chronic Covid, infecting their immune cells and persisting for lengths of time, similar to AIDS. Hat tip to Geert Vanden Bossche who mentions this article in his great post, where he argues that predicting the future on the basis of wastewater is futile.
I agree with Geert’s point completely. In this article, I wanted to attempt a different take on the Israeli wastewater study and show that highly vaccinated Israel is beset with Chronic Covid, and that people who seem to have recovered from Covid, are still sick and have ongoing active Covid infections that they picked a long time ago.
Here’s the study:
The authors looked at wastewater surveillance data from Israel. This surveillance analyzes wastewater and looks at viruses found in human excrements, coming from thousands of households and mixed together in the municipal wastewater stream. Wastewater surveillance is a great way to look at masses of people, as many persons’ excrements are mixed together and can be analyzed for the presence and amount of viral particles, at the population level.
Authors show that
- Omicron completely took over and was found in the vast majority of Israel’s positive nasal swabs
- The Delta variant practically disappeared from nasal swab results
- Despite that, Delta variant RNA was massively present in Israel’s wastewater long after it disappeared from nasal swabs.
Here’s the wastewater prevalence data.
This is extremely surprising! Why would Delta virions be massively excreted by Israelis, long after Delta practically disappeared from nasal swabs? Why would the amount of Delta virions remain almost a constant, despite continuing disappearance of Delta from Israeli national statistics?
There is only one answer to these questions: many Israelis remained infected with Delta and have the virus replicating in their guts long after they supposedly “recovered”. The virus, instead of truly being expelled from the body by a functional immune system, persisted in Israelis. This is the only way the viral RNA would remain in wastewater.
The people, despite appearing long recovered, are not recovered and have ongoing COVID-19 infections.
Viral Persistence in Guts and CD8 Immune Cells
A very important study that we need to know about is called Post-acute COVID-19 is characterized by gut viral antigen persistence in inflammatory bowel diseases.
They looked at patients who had COVID. The authors made two extremely interesting findings. First, they confirmed that Sars-Cov-2 is expressed in guts. But most importantly, they found Sars-Cov-2 RNA in CD8 immune cells!
We report expression of SARS-CoV-2 RNA in the gut mucosa ∼7 months after mild acute COVID-19 in 32 of 46 patients with IBD. Viral nucleocapsid protein persisted in 24 of 46 patients in gut epithelium and CD8+ T cells.
Overall, we see an ominous picture of people persistently infected by an obsolete variant of Sars-Cov-2 (Delta), that is no longer circulating but is still fully present in wastewater.
That was not supposed to happen in Israel, which is highly vaccinated with a “safe and effective” vaccine, that was supposed to stop the virus. Instead of stopping, Israelis now have “Chronic Covid” that seemingly never clears.
Is Israel unique? It is in many cultural ways, but probably not in the way how Covid persists in guts and immune cells. That should make you worried.
Chronic Covid Patients Breed New Variants
Having a part of the population chronically infected with SARS-Cov-2 is a very bad development. This means that Sars-Cov-2 carriers are, in effect, permanent walking virus variant factories, like HIV patients. They would endlessly produce newer, and fitter, variants.
In the past, viral fitness was determined by contagiousness. When a sizable part of the population is chronically infected, fitness may be determined by the virus’s ability to linger in the body and infect immune cells. The variant that stays in the body longest, wins.
Further, having old variants linger creates a ripe condition for the emergence of “recombinant variants”, such as Ba4 or Ba5. These recombinant variants combine features of Delta and Omicron and likely appeared in chronic Covid patients.
If so, chronic covid will get worse over time, due to CD8 immune cell destruction as well as variant development. Good luck to the people affected.